Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Reading Exodus by Leon Uris: Part 4

Continuing from Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 let us continuing looking at the 1958 novel Exodus by Leon Uris. Beginning with Chapter 2 of Book 2 (p. 194) we digress from the main story line and so begins the tale of the Rabinsky brothers, Jossi and Yakov, from Zhitomir (modern day Zhytomyr, Ukraine) in the Russian Empire in 1884. Jossi Rabinsky being the father of the novel's main protagonist, Ari Ben Canaan.

(Note: There will be spoilers.)

Jews, Khazars and Russians

The history of the Jewish community in Russia is discussed. The Turkic Khazars are mentioned.
The Khazars who ruled in that area were so taken with Judaism that they adopted it as their own religion. The Khazars' kingdom was, in fact, a Jewish state. ... During those periods when the Moslems held parts of Russia the Jews knew their greatest times of peace and prosperity, for Jews had been a potent factor. (p. 195.)
Unfortunately demonizing Muslims have become all too marketable nowadays. Anyone who learns to loath Muslims is perfectly capable of hating Jews or any other vulnerable group. We must give no place to hatred, whether it be anti-Semitism or Islamophobia.

Some have speculated that the Ashkenazi Jews today are descended from the Khazars. I wish to state here that I cannot believe that idea. If this was so then why is it that the Ashkenazi Jews were blessed with a beautiful language, namely Yiddish, which happens to be a dialect of German? Furthermore it well known that there were Jews present in Europe long before the time of the Khazars (c. 650-1048). This idea seems most implausible. I have no use for that idea.

Persecution in Russia

The state of the Jewish community in Russia is described. It is mentioned that they were forced to endure all kinds of discrimination at the hands of the majority population and opportunistic government officials. Back in the 1650s a Cossack revolt against Polish rule massacred thousands of Jews. During the 19th Century Jews in Russia were forced into living in the Pale of Settlement forbidden from living outside it just because of their religion.

It is also mentioned that despite these many problems the Jewish community rallied themselves together and produced their own culture and looked after the poor among themselves. It is inspiring to read how the people of this marginalized community were able to create such a rich and noble culture despite the many problems that were imposed on them.

Seeing the many problems in Russia naturally many yearned for a better society in Russia.
Bread, land and reform movements sprang up all over the nation. Because their own plight was the worst, there were always Jews to be found in any organization which strived to alleviate the wretched conditions. (p. 199.)
Many courageous people tried to reform Russian society to alleviate the many problems of the country. Indeed many of these courageous reformers happened to be Jews. If they had been allowed to reform peacefully perhaps Russia would have modernized in a peaceful manner instead of turning into a dictatorial one party state in which many terrible things occurred.

As time went on it became increasingly difficult for those in power to justify the severe economic inequality that existed in the Russian Empire. So to distract the people from calls for reform some of those in power tried to tear society apart by inciting hatred against Jews in place of enacting liberal reforms.
In trying desperately to divert the people's attention from the real issue of tyranny, the masterminds behind the Czar found a new and convenient use for the old scapegoats, the Jews. ... The Russian government decided to make anti-Semitism a deliberate political weapon. They launched a campaign in which the number of Jewish members in the Bread and Land movements was exaggerated and they claimed it was all a plot by Jewish anarchists out to seize the government for their own profit. (pp. 199-200.)
Scapegoating Jews to prop up the increasingly dysfunctional and authoritarian society would lead to many horrors over the years.

Jewish Religious Opposition to Nationalism

Judaism has existed as a religion for thousands of years. But nationalism has only existed in the modern era. As modern technology and improved communications made it easier for people to stay connected and for governments to exert their authority local loyalties gave way loyalty to the national government. Precisely when this change happened is open to debate. Some have cited Britain in the early 18th Century. Others the French Revolution.

When a nationalist movement calling for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine began to be formed in the late 19th Century many of the religious authorities of Judaism were firmly opposed to this dream, viewing it as contrary to the Jewish religion. This would remain to be the case among religious Jews until the rise of Nazism in the 1930s. That fact is alluded to in the following section of this novel. 

Yakov and Jossi are intrigued by the Lovers of Zion, a nationalist movement that called for the creation of a Jewish nation. It started in response to the anti-Semitic pogroms in Odessa of 1881. It was founded by Leon Pinsker and energized by his pamphlet calling for auto-emancipation.

Simon rebuked them for being interested in this modern, predominantly secular political ideology.
"In our history we have been plagued with false messiahs. I fear you are listening to one of them now." (p. 205.)
Among religious Jews there was widespread opposition to the idea of moving to Palestine and establishing a national home there. Most religious Jews carried this opinion until the rise of Nazism in the 1930s.

Afterwards some students from a nearby gymnasium go on an anti-Semitic rampage and murder Simon Rabinsky as he tried to protect a scroll of the Torah. The hateful mob burned the precious Torah scroll regardless.

In retaliation Yakov killed the bigoted man who incited the murderous mob. After this Yakov and Jossi are compelled to flee. They decide to make a break for Palestine over land via the Caucasus region. Remembering the lectures they heard from the Lovers of Zion they went forth.

The Refugees' Journey to the "Fallow" Land

Reading of their journey one cannot help but wonder if something like this had really happened. But many similar stories of desperate wandering journeys are happening today in the current refugee crisis. Many of them are now fleeing the violence and destruction that has been the unhappy lot of Syria since 2011 when the Assad regime tried to suppress an initially peaceful protest movement with much violence and bloodshed.
In Aleppo they received their first taste of the Arab world. They passed through bazaars and dung-filled streets and heard Moslem chants from the minarets--- (p. 211.)
These words have become particularly poignant as Aleppo is currently being torn apart in the cataclysmic war in Syria. In 2011 the regime launched a campaign of violent repression against an initially non-violent protest movement which incited an armed insurgency in response. In July 2012 anti-regime rebels managed to advance into Aleppo and since then Aleppo has been divided into areas held by rebels and areas held by forces aligned with the Assad regime. The city has been utterly devastated. May peace soon return to Syria.

After forty months Jossi and Yakov finally reached the promised land. But they were sorely disappointed to see it was not as it had been advertised to them by the speakers of the Lovers of Zion.  
But as they trudged on even Jossi became dismayed. Their Promised Land was not a land flowing with milk and honey but a land of festering stagnated swamps and eroded hills and rock-filled fields and unfertile earth caused by a thousand years of Arab and Turkish neglect. It was a land denuded of its richness. It was a land that lay bleeding and fallow. ... From Tabor they could see the entire sorrowful picture. A fruitless, listless, dying land. (p. 216.)
The land was not empty, fallow or fruitless. Palestine was continuously filled with people and the land there was harvested continuously and uninterrupted since ancient times.
From the synagogue they went to the one remaining wall of their great ancient temple. It stood on the site of the Mosque of Omar, the Dome of the Rock. This wall was the holiest place in all Jewry. (p. 217.)
Today some national religious Israeli Jews insist on praying at the Temple Mount heedless of the severe tensions their actions cause. Some have even promoted Third Temple Extremism insisting that the Dome of the Rock should be demolished and replaced with a Third Temple. But back in 1958 the author of this novel stated that the Wailing Wall was the holiest place in Judaism. Not the Temple Mount. Third Temple Extremism is a modern ideology. Traditionally Jews had no desire to create a Third Temple. Even today it is merely a opinion held by only a few.
The Bilus were all inexperienced in agriculture. The philanthropists sent over experts to help them, but it was a matter of using cheap Arab labor and citrus. No attempts at self-labor had been tried nor were there attempts to balance the agriculture. The Jews, in fact, had become overseers. (p. 218.)
Why not use the local people to farm the land? That way they are employed. The landowners get rent. What is wrong with this? If these Palestinian Arab laborers get laid off how will they gain employment? Will they not be angry at losing their income? How could they not interpret this laid off just because they are not Jews as a bad sign? How could this not engineer hostility with the local Palestinian Arab population?

As more Jews began to migrate to Palestine, particularly after the anti-Semitic pogroms of 1881-4 in Tsarist Russia, the Jews living in Palestine came to call themselves, the Yishuv (settlement). 

Theodor Herzl

The author then discusses the Dreyfuss affair, a disgraceful incident in which an innocent man was falsely accused and convicted of spying for Germany and was ruthlessly shipped off to French Guyana. The author states that it was this incident that inspired Theodor Herzl to start calling for the creation of a Jewish state.

There is today skepticism that the Dreyfuss affair actually inspired Herzl's embrace of pursuing the creation of a Jewish state. One recent biographer suggests that it the rise of ethnic nationalism within Austria-Hungry and the gradual splintering of the empire along ethnic lines that persuaded Herzl to pursue the goal of the establishment of a Jewish state.

Ironically Dreyfuss, despite enduring ten harsh years of imprisonment on the other side of the Atlantic on false charges and being viciously demonized by anti-Semitic bigots all over France, disagreed with the idea of creating a Jewish state and called it an "anachronism."
Theodor Herzl pondered and thought, and he decided that the curse of anti-Semitism could never be eradicated. So long as one Jew lived--there would be someone to hate him. (p. 221.)
So Jews should just give up holding onto their property, staying in their homes and neighborhoods, deny to themselves the company of family members and friends and move someplace far away to run away from anti-Semitic bigots? Anti-Semitic hatred needs to be opposed wherever it is so that all law abiding civilians may live in peace and safety.

Herzl went to potential donors but at first they denounced his idea as "madness."
They ridiculed the Jewish state idea as nonsense. Charity was one thing--as Jews they gave to less fortunate Jews--but talk of rebuilding a nation was madness. (p. 221.)
But despite these problems a conference was held setting up the movement to create a Jewish state.
They called the movement Zionism. (p. 222.)
The name Zionism was coined by one Nathan Birnbaum around 1890, predating Herzl's activities. Ironically in his later years he embraced ultra-orthodox Judaism and as a result of these religious views he strongly condemned the idea of creating a Jewish state.
The Zionists opened their first land-buying office, the Zion Colonizing Society, in a dingy run-down hotel in Jaffa which was the local headquarters of Jewish interests. (p. 225.)
Today some who support the State of Israel condemn the idea that the State of Israel is a colony. Too bad no one bothered to tell the Zion Colonizing Society that. And with such activities energized by Herzl's thought the Yishuv in Palestine expanded in population and was able to purchase more land.

Laying off Palestinian Arab Workers

It is mentioned that the revolution of 1905 prompted another wave of immigration to Palestine named the second Aliyah. With these people a new idea arose among the Yishuv.
... the pronouncement of self-labor, and the conquest of labor. Through their chief spokesman, A.D. Gordon, labor was made something dignified. Gordon was an older man and a scholar but he gave up scholarship for the greater task of working the soil with his own hands. (p. 230.)
Of course it good and proper to idealize productive work. But what about the Palestinian Arabs who were already working as tenants on these properties? Is it really such a good idea to lay them off just because they are not Jews?

Yakov then asks Jossi to join him in setting up a Jewish armed guard to protect the Jewish farms. They argue about it and Yakov insults his brother calling him "a ghetto Jew."
[Jossi:] "...And one thing that really annoys me ... if we carry loaded guns it may be interpreted to mean we are looking for a fight."
Yakov threw up his hands. "Challenging a fight by defending your own property! After twenty years in Palestine you still think like a ghetto Jew." ....
"You make me sick," Yakov snapped. "Sure, Jossi ... redeem the land under the magnanimous protection of the Bedouin cutthroats. ..." (p. 231.)
Jossi contemplated the problems of dismissing the Bedouin workers would cause.
As soon as the Bedouins learned they had lost their jobs they were certain to strike. (p. 232.)
This novel was printed in 1958 and unfortunately this novel really shows its age in how one minor character is described.
When he [Jossi] had ridden halfway through the camp a Negro Arab, obviously from the Sudan, came toward him. The Negro introduced himself as Suleiman's personal slave and led him to the largest of the tents near the largest flock of goats. (p. 232.)
Back in 1958 such terminology was in mainstream usage. Today after the successes of the civil rights movement that would not be appropriate terminology. We have moved on now.

Jossi informed Suleiman that the Bedouin workers were dismissed and would be replaced by the Hashomer guard. It was expected there would be trouble. Nine days later some the grain was stolen. Jossi went back to Suleiman to retaliate.
The Sudanese slave came out and smiled sweetly and welcomed Jossi and invited him to enter. Jossi hit the slave with the back of his hand as though he were flicking a fly from his arm and sent him sprawling to the ground. (p. 233.)
In all likelihood this section would have been written differently if a novel like this was written today.

Jossi challenged Suleiman to a duel, beat him up with a whip and ordered him not set foot on their fields.
[Jossi:] If you or your kinsmen ever again set foot in our fields I will cut your body apart with this whip and feed the pieces to the jackals. (p. 234.)
And in this novel, this worked.
Suleiman never touched a Jewish field again. (p. 234.)
But despite going through such a thing in this novel when Jossi marries Sarah the whipped Suleiman attends the wedding. Seemingly such violence can be used and it will not lead to overly negative consequences. (p. 236.)

The Rise of the Kibbutzim

But as time went on to the frustration of the protagonists of this part of the novel the farms of the Yishuv are not doing so well. Notably the use of Palestinian Arabs as employees in these farms is viewed as a "problem."
The agricultural colonies were failing miserably. ... They planted only export crops and continued to use the cheaper Arab labor. Despite the influx of Jews and the desire of these Jews to work the land the Zionists could barely convince the colonies to use them. ... Like Yakov and Jossi, the immigrants drifted from place to place without cause and without putting down roots. ... it became increasingly obvious that some drastic change in the entire thinking about colonization was necessary. (pp. 236-7.)
The protagonists wish for Jewish individuals to farm the land instead of hiring Palestinian Arabs to farm it.
The first principle involved was to keep all land in the name of the Zion Settlement Society-all Jewish land for all the Jewish people. Only self-labor would be allowed on the land: the Jew had to do the work himself and could hire no other Jew or Arab. (p. 237.)
But if all the Palestinian Arabs are to be dismissed because they are not Jews what are these Palestinian Arabs going to do?

The establishment of Shoshanna is discussed.
Hundreds of Australian eucalyptus trees were planted to soak up the water. (p. 238.)
 What about the native fauna?
... most of the group did not know how to farm or what to farm or the difference between a hen and a rooster. They worked by trial and error and the results were mostly errors. (p. 238.) 
 If they had employed Palestinian Arab farmers perhaps some of these errors could have been avoided.
When the Bedouins saw several hundred acres of land under cultivation they set out to dislodge the Jews. (p. 239.) 
The author makes no link between this opposition by Bedouin and the previous proposal to make implement self labor on these farms. When Palestinian Arabs perceived that they were to excluded from farming on these lands it is little wonder that they would view these farms of the Yishuv as a threat to their employment and their access to the land.
Everyone in Shoshanna had a violent hatred for the things which had made him a ghetto Jew. They were going to destroy those things and they were going to build a homeland. (p. 239.)
So first the phrase "ghetto Jew" is used by Yakov to insult Jossi. Now the phrase is used by the author seemingly accepting this phrase as an accurate description of what these people of the Yishuv did not want their children to be like.

The Rise of Modern Hebrew

In the 1880s schools were teaching children to how to speak modern Hebrew. Of course it was not the same language used in the Torah. As time went on it became increasingly popular to use modern Hebrew.

In this novel Jossi tells his wife that he had decided to speak only Hebrew and adopt a Hebrew name, Barak. Sarah objects.
"If you ever went to a synagogue any more," Sarah said, ... "you would know that Hebrew is for communication with God." (p. 242.)
Before the 1880s Hebrew was a liturgical language. A sacred language. It was not used in everyday life. One objection to adopting modern Hebrew as a vernacular language was the fear that this liturgical language would now be used for secular and mundane things.
[Jossi:] "... If we are to think like a nation, we had better speak like a nation."
[Sarah:] "We do. Yiddish is our language."
[Jossi:] "Yiddish is the language of exiles. Yiddish is the language of the ghetto. Hebrew is the language of all the Jews." (p. 242.)
While it is true that Hebrew is linked with the Jewish people in practice it had not been used as a language used in everyday life since ancient times. Even in the time of Jesus the Jews in Judaea spoke Aramaic.

Initially Sarah is furious at this idea but after a month she comes to accept this move. Jossi renamed himself Barak.

Adopting modern Hebrew had the unfortunate effect of making it harder to talk with their Palestinian Arab neighbors.

Arab Revolt Dismissed as Fake

The catastrophe of World War I arose in 1914. At first the Ottoman Empire stayed out if it but then the government sided with Germany and Austria-Hungary. As part of the war effort British officials tried to encourage Arabs living under Ottoman rule to launch a revolt. One ally the British gained was the sherif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali. In 1916 the revolt began. But in this novel the revolt is denigrated as essentially fake, enacted only to get brides from the British and was not a serious opposition against the Ottoman Turks.
British gold was consequently spread about liberally as bait to hook support. The bait was snapped at. ... [Faisal] had agreed to assist his father in getting Arab tribes to "rebel" against the Ottomans. (p. 245.)

British efforts to stir up an Arab revolt against the Ottomans had fallen flat. Then came the final blow! The Arabs suspected that a secret British-French agreement was in the wind to carve up and subjugate the Arab world. (p. 247.)

With Allenby's successful campaign, the long-overdue, much-heralded, very costly, and highly overrated Arab revolt began. Faisal, son of the sherif of Mecca, brought in a few tribes from the desert when it was obvious that the Turks were losing. With the Ottomans on their backs, the Arabs dropped their cloak of neutrality so that they could share in the coming spoils. Faisal's "rebels" made a good deal of noise and hacked up an unguarded rail line but never put it out of commission. Never once did Arab "rebels" engage in a major or minor battle. (p. 249.) 
In contrast the Jewish community in Palestine is portrayed as unfailingly loyal to Britain during World War I. Barak and Akiva went overseas to fight with Britain and speak for the Yishuv in the United States.

The Balfour Declaration

And in reward for such loyalty Britain produced the Balfour Declaration which is praised as the Magna Charta of the Jewish people. (p. 247.)

It is later stated that the Balfour Declaration was legitimized in the League of Nations.
The Balfour Declaration was ratified by fifty nations. (p. 250.)
But how important was this ratification by other countries? What about the Palestinian Arabs themselves? Did they ever agree to this Declaration? They did not.

One year later the following petition protesting against the Balfour Declaration was given to the British governor.
A delegation of the Muslim-Christian Association, headed by Musa al-Husayni, expressed public disapproval on 3 November 1918, one day after the Zionist Commission parade marking the first anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. They handed a petition signed by more than 100 notables to Ronald Storrs, the OETA military governor:
We have noticed yesterday a large crowd of Jews carrying banners and over-running the streets shouting words which hurt the feeling and wound the soul. They pretend with open voice that Palestine, which is the Holy Land of our fathers and the graveyard of our ancestors, which has been inhabited by the Arabs for long ages, who loved it and died in defending it, is now a national home for them... We Arabs, Muslim and Christian, have always sympathized profoundly with the persecuted Jews and their misfortunes in other countries... but there is wide difference between such sympathy and the acceptance of such a nation...ruling over us and disposing of our affairs. (Wikipedia, Balfour Declaration: Arab Opposition.)
 Ironically there was only one Jewish Minister in the British Cabinet and he opposed the Balfour Declaration.
Faisal had a brother named Abdullah who had to be rewarded too. The British, without authorization from the League of Nations, formed another "country" from part of the Palestine mandate and named Abdullah its king. This country they called Trans-Jordan. (p. 252.)
That Britain chose to interpret the Balfour Declaration in such a way indicates that the British government regarding it as something they could do with as they pleased. This indicates that the ratification of the Balfour Declaration was merely camouflage obscuring the fact that ultimately the Balfour Declaration was merely based on Britain's will. Once Britain and the Yishuv's leaders disagreed about the Balfour Declaration Britain would win the argument since they were the most powerful empire on the face of the Earth.

The Balfour Declaration also ignored the Palestinian Arabs. It was not issued after consulting the Palestinian Arabs. It was an act of will by the British authorities made even before the British had advanced into Palestine. The democratic will of Palestinian Arabs was ignored by the British authorities.

With the British authorities allowing the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine the stage was set for a bitter three way struggle over Palestine between the British authorities ruling over all, the Yishuv trying to create a Jewish homeland and the Palestinian Arabs trying to retain their land.

The Mufti of Jerusalem

So after those Palestinian Arabs were dismissed from farms owned by the Yishuv a Mufti arose in Jerusalem, the infamous Haj Amin al Husseini. (El Husseini in the novel.) After his appointment as Mufti of Jerusalem he was a major opponent of the Yishuv. His denunciations of Jews immigrating to Palestine and use of anti-Semitic tropes intensely polarized the political situation. He accused them of trying to build a Third Temple exploiting statements by Abraham Kook, the founder of the national religious Israeli Jews. He gained infamy as his sermons led to deadly riots in which Jews were killed. Shamefully he would later forge relations with the Nazis in the 1930s and during World War II he collaborated with the Nazis.
The leader of the dreaded El Husseinis was the most vile, underhanded schemer in a part of the world known for vile, underhanded schemers. His name was Haj Amin el Husseini. ... El Husseini was backed by a clan of devils. (p. 253.)
So the Palestinians who backed the Mufti were devils?
Every day there was a new story of an ambush, a sniping, or a theft. The tirades from the Moslem pulpit never ended. There was always tension in the air, for the sinister Mufti, Haj Amin el Husseini, lurked in the shadows. (p. 257.)
In this novel the Palestinian revolts and communal acts of violence by Palestinian Arabs are blamed on the Mufti's preaching. It is stated that those Palestinian Arabs who were not under the Mufti's influence did not riot against the Yishuv. This has the effect of ignoring the other issues that sparked Palestinian grievance against the Yishuv. One such issue being the removal of Palestinian Arab laborers from farms purchased by those who pursued Herzl's dream of creating a Jewish state.

If those Palestinian Arabs were busy working in their farms and getting a stable income from that maybe they would not have thought it in their interest to oppose the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Maybe they would have been too busy farming the land to listen to this Mufti.

Due to worries about the Mufti the leaders of the Yishuv met and decided to create a clandestine militia named the Haganah. Publicly knowledge of the Haganah was to be denied by the Yishuv leadership but it was to be under the command of the Yishuv's leadership. (pp. 255-6.)
The majority of villages out of the Mufti's sphere of influence did not participate in the disturbances. (p. 265.)
The novel presents it as though only the Mufti caused these deadly and shameful riots. Without question he deserves to bear the blame for any wrongs he did, such as his later infamous collaboration with the Nazis. But it is clearly too simplistic an explanation to blame the entire revolt on one individual.

What about Britain's Balfour Declaration itself? It was made without consulting the Palestinian Arabs. It was issued before British forces even advanced into Palestine. The Palestinian Arabs constantly opposed it and made it clear they did not want this to happen to their land.
Jonathan Schneer's 2010 study concluded that because the buildup to the declaration was characterized by "contradictions, deceptions, misinterpretations, and wishful thinking", the declaration sowed dragon's teeth and "produced a murderous harvest, and we go on harvesting even today." (Wikipedia, Balfour Declaration: Longer Term Impact.)
Both the Yishuv and the Palestinian Arabs were divided against each other and had to weigh their decisions in the shadow of British military might present in Palestine. Meanwhile the British ruled over all.
The early friendships, the fact that the Jews had raised the standard of living of the entire Arab community, and the fact that Palestine had lain neglected and unwanted for a thousand years in fruitless despair until the Jews rebuilt it was all forgotten in the face of the Mufti's tirades. (p. 266.)
Palestine used to be advertised as, "A land without a people for a people without land." This was always factually incorrect but a trace of this myth of the empty land is evident in the passage above. In fact Palestine was continuously inhabited since ancient times. It was never at anytime "neglected" or "unwanted" as people lived on it continuously.

Akiva, believing that the Yishuv leadership was too lenient towards the British, led a break away faction of the Palmach named the Maccabees. The Maccabees is a fictional representation of the right wing paramilitary group, the Irgun. Jossi went to him to try and talk him out of this but Akiva was determined to do this. The dialogue ends with the firebrand Akiva saying the following.
"Remember one thing, Barak Ben Canaan," Akiva said. "Nothing we do, right or wrong, can ever compare to what has been done to the Jewish people. Nothing the Maccabees do can even be considered an injustice in comparison to two thousand years of murder." (p. 271.)
It is clear that Akiva is cast as the overly violent character. He is the coarse contrast to the staid, rational and more idealistic Barak. So it seems quite likely that the author is actually criticizing this view by having Akiva say these things.

Leon/Ari the Lion

Ari in Hebrew means lion. The author's name also means lion. The author has named the main protagonist of this novel after himself. Ari seems to be an author insert character. He bears the author's name and has the author's blessing.

Even in the womb Ari was blessed by the author with remarkable liveliness. The following passage describes Sarah while she was pregnant during the time of World War I.
Sarah slumped against the wall and rubbed her hand over her belly. She was six months pregnant and could feel the life in her body as she had never felt it in any of the previous pregnancies. (p. 245.)
Abu Yaha bemoans to Barak that only Jews can make his people advance. He expresses his despair that any Arab would be able to lift up his people. He sells some of the Palestinian village's land to the Yishuv.

The phrase "ghetto Jew" is first used in this novel as a curse by Yakov. Then the narrator uses it seemingly as a legitimate concept. And now Barak uses that word. At one point Barak wants his son, Ari, to go and buy some wheat.
"Neither Ari nor Jordana is going to live in fear like ghetto Jews." (p. 263.)
But while Ari was returning he was ambushed by Palestinian Arabs and beaten up. Upon his return his father was distraught and taught Ari how to use a whip. Ari tried again. This time when the Palestinian Arabs began to ambush him Ari was prepared used the whip.
Ari ... brought down a lash that snapped so sharply it tore his foe's flesh apart. (pp. 264-5.)
And so Ari returned safely.

Very quickly any sign of weakness or flaws within Ari is quickly gone.
Ari Ben Canaan was the pride of his father's heart. By the age of seventeen he was six feet tall and had the strength of a lion. Besides Hebrew and English he mastered Arabic, German, French, and Yiddish.... (p. 272.)
Note the pun on Ari's name. Ari means lion in Hebrew. It is also the meaning of the author's name. Ari bears the author's name.

Ari went into the Palmach and naturally was better than everyone else.
Ari had shown remarkable skill and leadership within the Haganah and despite his tender age was considered by Avidan one of the most promising soldiers in all of Palestine. (p. 272.)
Of course he was. He has the author's favor.

The Arab Revolt of 1936-9

Tensions grew in the Holy Land. As the Yishuv expanded more Palestinian Arab farmers were dismissed in order to bring the ideal of Hebrew labor into fulfillment. No doubt those dismissed talked to family and friends. No doubt those Palestinians wondered why they lost their farms like that. These dismissals poisoned relations. Tensions erupted in 1936 with the start of a general strike by the Palestinian Arabs.
The Mufti, seeing the growing British weakness, made his move at last for control of Palestine. In the spring of 1936 he stirred up a new series of riots. They began in Jaffa with the fable that the Jews were snatching all the Arabs in Tel Aviv and murdering them. (p. 273.)
It is incorrect to say the Mufti started the revolt of 1936-9. Rather the strike began as a general strike. At first the Mufti did not approve of the strike. But as it kept going he later took up leadership. But he did not start the strike. This did not happen. 

In this novel the possibility that there were legitimate grievances fueling the general strike is implicitly denied. The possibility that dismissing Palestinians from farms fueled this general strike is ignored. Instead the strike and subsequent insurgency is presented as though it was all the work of Haj Amin al Husseini, his "clan of devils" and those he manged to recruit to work for him.

It is asserted that the strike was maintained by fear caused by the Mufti's henchmen. It is asserted that rival Palestinians were assassinated by the Mufti. (pp. 273-4.)

It is asserted that British attempts to suppress the Palestinians' revolt was not undertaken seriously.
Instead of moving to stamp out the Arab attacks, the British were nearly comical in their efforts. A few times they swept in on suspected bandit hide-out villages and assessed collective fines, and once or twice they even destroyed a few villages. But they went into a defensive shell. (p. 275.)
This is nonsense. The British reserved the full force of repression against the Palestinian Arabs which is clearly evident in the death toll of the revolt.
Despite the intervention of up to 50,000 British troops and 15,000 Haganah men, the uprising continued for over three years. By the time it concluded in September 1939, more than 5,000 Arabs, over 300 Jews, and 262 Britons had been killed and at least 15,000 Arabs were wounded. (1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine, Wikipedia.) 
It is mentioned that the Yishuv mastered the construction of tower and blockade settlements. (p. 276.)

The proposal of the Peel Commission of 1937 to partition Palestine into a Jewish state and a Palestinian Arab state is mentioned.

Ha Mishmar Settlement

As the revolt continued some Arabs were entering Palestine via Lebanon. Deciding to go on the offensive it is decided by the Yishuv to purchase some land near the border with Lebanon and build a settlement there to stop these supporters of the revolt from getting into Palestine. Ari and his girlfriend Dafna are part of this move. Ari was second in command. The settlement was named Ha Mishmar, which means "the guard post."

They built the settlement. A few days later the Mufti ordered his fighters to attack the newly constructed settlement. But Ha Mishmar was prepared and caught the attackers out killing sixty Arabs. Four of the Yishuv were killed in the battle including the commander. So Ari became the commander of Ha Mishmar

Ha Mishmar gradually climbed the hill seeking to establish the fortification on the top of the hill. Each day they built a bit further uphill to get to the top. Pleased with how well Ha Mishmar performed the Yishuv leadership decided to purchase strategically placed settlements to suppress Palestinian Arabs.
... they decided that from then on some new settlements would be selected for their strategic value in chocking off the Arab revolution. (p. 281.)
But as in any war tragedy would soon occur. Tragically Ari's girlfriend, Dafna, was abducted and murdered in a most terrible way. But because the author insists on having Ari be a flawless and perfect character he reacts with stoicism and keeps his feelings to himself.
No one saw Ari Ben Canaan weep or even raise his voice. After Dafna's murder he would disappear for hours at a time, returning chalky-faced and shaken. But he never displayed passion or hatred or even great anger. ... Ari Ben Canaan was all soldier. Half a dozen Arab villages near Ha Mishmar cringed and awaited a revenge attack--but it never came. (pp. 282.)
By having him react in an unusual way the author seeks to convey to the reader that Ari is a character of indomitable will.

P.P. Malcolm/Wingate

At this point an British major named P. P. Malcolm comes to the assistance of the Yishuv to help suppress the revolt by Palestinian Arabs. Malcom was a fervent Christian Restorationist who believed it was God's will for Jews to migrate to Palestine. Everyone among the British and the Yishuv viewed him as eccentric and strange but blessed with talent in waging armed combat. He is a fictionalized version of Orde Wingate.

Malcolm leads a raid to try and find weapons held by Palestinians as part of the attempt to suppress the Palestinians' revolt. They set an ambush and defeated the Palestinians.

Then this happens.
Two prisoners were taken to the major.

"Where are your guns hidden?" he [Malcolm] asked the first one in Arabic. The Arab shrugged.

Malcolm slapped the Arab's face and repeated the question. This time the Arab pleaded his innocence as Allah was his judge. Malcolm calmly took out his pistol and shot the Arab through the head. He turned to the second prisoner. "Where are your guns hidden?"

The second Arab quickly revealed the location of the arms. (p. 286.)
If you want a prisoner to talk just kill a human being in front of him to get him to talk seems to have been Malcolm's lesson for the aspiring soldiers of the Yishuv. Today we have laws forbidding such extra judicial executions.

After this raid Malcolm called up 150 soldiers of the Yishuv. Of course there was one individual he especially wanted.
Malcolm ... specifically wanted Ari Ben Canaan whom he greatly favored. (p. 287.)
Of course he did. This is Leon/Ari the lion.

Then Malcom led them to Gideon's grave to inspire them. He said the following to the soldiers of the Yishuv.
"Gideon was a smart man. Gideon knew the Midianites were an ignorant and a superstitious people. Gideon knew he could play on their primitive fears and that they could be frightened by noise and by the night. Gideon knew it ... and so do we." (p. 287.)
Did Malcolm just slur Palestinian Arabs as ignorant and superstitious?
Reprisal, from then on, became the key to Jewish defense. (p. 288.)
Reprisals are defensive acts?

Malcolm was then told by the British authorities to leave Palestine. He was given a medal and the leaders of the Yishuv expressed their thanks to him and he left Palestine. In real life Wingate would later mastermind British operations in Burma (modern day Myanmar) that successfully defeated the Japanese presence there. He died in a plane crash in India in 1944.

World War II 

The Yishuv leaders' dream of creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine received a severe blow in 1939 when the British authorities decided to restrict Jewish immigration to Palestine. The Yishuv leaders had depended on British favor to build up a homeland but now the British authorities were withdrawing their favor. 
The appeasers of Munich who had sold Spain and Czechoslovakia down the river had done the same to the Jews of Palestine. (p. 290.)
The sympathy expressed for the Spanish Republic which was overthrown by the Spanish Civil War indicates the left wing leanings of the State of Israel at the time of this novel's publication in 1958. From 1948 till 1977 the State of Israel was led for the most part by left wing parties. Since 1977 the State of Israel have for the most part been led by right wing parties.

Some writers, both Jewish and Palestinian Arab, have asserted that the British were conducting a divide and rule stratagem keeping the Yishuv and the Palestinian Arabs divided against each other so that the British could rule over them all.

When World War II broke out the Yishuv chose to be allies of Britain in the grand struggle against Nazi tyranny. During the course of the war it was decided to establish a militia among the Yishuv named the Palmach which was affiliated with the Haganah.

The Palestinian Arabs also helped the war effort by choosing to keep their peace. They could have thought that with Britain engaged in a cataclysmic struggle against Nazi Germany it would be the perfect to seek revenge for what happened in the revolt of 1936-9. The Nazis tried to turn the Palestinian Arabs against the British and the Yishuv but the Palestinian Arabs wisely refused to take the bait. But they refrained from such a thing. They knew the Nazis were no good so they kept their peace. The Palestinian Arabs were fellow allies in the struggle against Nazi tyranny. Palestine was a stable bastion of stability for the British war effort during World War II.

The sinking of the Struma on February 24, 1942, is mentioned in which 791 people (799 in the novel), most of them Jewish refugees from eastern Europe fleeing Nazi tyranny, died when it sank in the Black Sea (pp. 295-6). Later in 1964, six years after the publication of this novel, it was discovered that the Struma had been torpedoed by a Soviet submarine.

And before the torpedoing of the Struma there was the Patria disaster in which 267 people, mostly Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi tyranny, drowned off Haifa on November 25, 1940.
The Patria sank off Palestine's shores in sight of Haifa, and hundreds of refugees drowned. (p. 296.)
In 1957 it was revealed that the Patria sank because it was bombed by the Palmach as an attempt to stop the British from deporting the Jewish refugees out of Palestine. The bomb was intended to stop the ship from working but it was too powerful and the Patria sank. For whatever reason this information was not mentioned in the novel. Perhaps the author was unaware of it.
He [Haj Amin al Husseini] landed in Bagdad, Iraq, nominally a British ally but in not much more than name. In Bagdad he was greeted as a great martyr of Islam. (p. 296.)
Seems incorrect to describe him as a martyr considering he was still alive.

In 1941 sympathizers of the Nazis seized power in Iraq and even unleashed a deadly pogrom against Jews in Baghdad. However the British were able to suppress this revolt. Haj Amin al Husseini was a part of this coup but he escaped and managed to get to Nazi Germany. He even met Hitler in December 1941. (Contrary to Netanyahu's recent statement he had nothing to do with inspiring the Holocaust.) He then collaborated with the Nazis by trying to prop up support for the Nazis among the Bosnian Muslims of Yugoslavia. These shameful things are well known. However many Bosnian Muslims cast their lot with the Communist led Partisans led by Tito who emerged victorious and established a one party Communist state.

Arab allies of Britain are dismissed in this novel as lackadaisical, insincere, born of bribery and accompanied with little sacrifice compared with the Yishuv (p. 297). This is very similar to how the Arab revolt during World War I was denigrated in this novel.

Returning to the novel's narrative Ari is part of the Palmach and is visited by Haven-Hurst. They do not like each other very much but since this is the flawless Leon/Ari the Lion under discussion Haven-Hurst cannot help himself but sing praises to Ari as so many other characters in this novel have done.
"You are to be commended on your work here with these Palmach troops. ... You've been a busy chap." (p. 298.)
Ari then persuades him to release Palmach personnel who had been arrested by the British. Just about every character in this novel sings praises to Ari, even his enemies.

Serving the British Ari proceeded to lead a raid in Vichy ruled Syria.
Although his intelligence [information about the Vichy forces] was proving flawless.... [He sends Joab Yarkoni into Vichy ruled Syria and Lebanon.] His information confirmed everything they already knew and further located Vichy strength nearly to a man (pp. 299-300.)
Of course his intelligence information was flawless. This is Leon/Ari the Lion under discussion here. He bears the author's name and has the author's blessing.

The (Singular) Arab Treachery?

In time the fortunes of the Nazis reversed and it became increasingly apparent that the Nazis would lose the war. But the Yishuv was frustrated by the British authorities' decision to continue restricting Jewish immigration to Palestine.
Despite the Yishuv's magnificent record the British did not revoke the White Paper. Despite the Arab treachery and the fact that they did not raise a finger for victory they did not revoke it. Even with the ghastly news of the murder of six million Jews the British would not allow the survivors in. (p. 303.)
Here the author speaks of "the Arab treachery" as though there was but one Arab interest during World War II and that this singular Arab interest somehow betrayed the British. This is not true because there was no single Arab interest during World War II.

Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yeman, Oman, the Gulf Emirates were allied with Britain. Saudi Arabia was allied with Britain and the United States.

Iraq was allied with Britain expect for a brief and violent period after the pro-Axis coup of 1941. Shamefully the pro-Axis forces in Iraq launched a deadly pogrom against the Jews in Baghdad. However this coup was soon defeated by the British. One cannot blame all the Arabs for what happened in Iraq.

Algeria, Syria and Lebanon were under the control of France before World War II and after the capitulation to the Nazis in 1940 they were controlled by Vichy France. How can just the Arabs in those lands be blamed while ignoring the French officials who aligned themselves with Vichy France?

So there was no singular "Arab treachery." Most Arabs were aligned with the Allies, particularly in the British controlled territories. Some Arabs chose to make shameful alliances with the Nazis. Some Arabs just tried to survive. But it is factually wrong to stereotype just one response as an "Arab treachery" that all Arabs are somehow bear responsibly together. That is factually incorrect.

The Maccabees' Anti-British Insurgency

At this point the novel describes the rise of an armed rebellion against British rule by right wing elements of the Yishuv. In the novel these insurgents are represented by the fictional group, the Maccabees. In real life there was the Irgun, a paramilitary organization that was the outgrowth of the Revisionist Zionism taught by Ze'ev Jabotinsky. There was also the Lehi founded by Avraham Stern and labelled the Stern Gang by the British.

As tensions increased in time it was the Irgun and Lehi that decided to fight against the British. In September 1940 Avraham Stern led his Lehi organization to wage an armed insurgency against the British until he was shot by British officers on December 12, 1942. On February 1, 1944 the Irgun and Lehi proclaimed the launching of an armed insurgency against the British. At first the more mainstream Palmach was opposed to fighting the British. After the assassination of Lord Moyne on November 6, 1944 by Lehi personnel the Palmach even launched a campaign to suppress the Irgun and Lehi's insurgency that was conducted until February 1945.

But after this calm tensions erupted again between the Yishuv and the British authorities. In frustration the Palmach allied with the Irgun and Lehi and merged as the Jewish Resistance Movement and then launched the Night of the Trains (October 31-November 1, 1945) in which numerous British targets were bombed.

The King David Hotel Bombing

Tensions reached a terrible degree with the King David Hotel bombing by Irgun personnel on July 22, 1946. In this novel the Irgun bombers are fictionally represented by the Maccabees.
Finally the British Foreign Minister burst forth with an anti-Jewish tirade and proclaimed all further immigration stopped.

The answer to this came from the Maccabees. The British had their main headquarters in the right wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. This hotel was in the new city with its rear and gardens facing the wall of the old city. A dozen Maccabees, dressed as Arabs, delivered several dozen enormous milk cans to the basement of the hotel. The milk cans were placed under the right wing of the hotel beneath British headquarters. The cans were filled with dynamite. They set the timing devices and cleared the area, and phoned the British a warning to get out of the building. The British scoffed at the idea. This time the Maccabees were playing a prank. They merely wanted to make fools of the British. Surely they would not dare attack British headquarters.
In a few minutes there was a blast heard across the breadth of Palestine. The right wing of the King David Hotel was blown to smithereens! (p. 304.)
The Irgun bombing killed 91 people.

It is asserted the warning was ignored because the British authorities could not believe such a threat. Considering the other acts of bombings and attacks that had been occurring over the years before then one must wonder why would the British view such a threat as a prank? Contrary to how the novel presents it the accusation that the British authorities ignored the phone warnings is quite a contentious issue. (See Sir John Shaw controversy.)

After the King David Hotel bombing the Palmach decided to cease its anti-British insurgency but the Irgun and Lehi continued their insurgency against the British. 

Incidentally, would it be just to blame all Jews for what some Irgun personnel did? Of course not. Only those who did what they did bear responsibility what happened. Bigotry seeks to falsely blame everyone of a certain group for something or other. We must give no place to bigotry, hatred or racism against any people, including anti-Semitism.  


And right after mentioning the King David Hotel bombing the digression of Ari and his family's backstory comes to an end and we return to the main story line in Cyprus in 1947.

To be continued...

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